Page images
[ocr errors]

But in an old Latin account of Denmark and the neighbouring provinces, I find the names of several rivers little differing from Esil, or Eisill, in spelling or pronunciation. Such are the Essa, the Desil, and some others. The word, like many more, may indeed be irrecoverably corrupted; but I must add, that no authors later than Chaucer or Skelton make use of eysel for vinegar : nor has Shakspere employed it in any other of his plays. The poet might have written the Weisel, a considerable river which falls into the Baltick ocean, and could not be unknown to any prince of Denmark.

STEEVENS. Mr. Steevens appears to have forgot our author's 111th sonnet :

" I will drinke

“ Potions of Eysell." I believe it has not been observed that many of these sonnets are addressed to his beloved nephew William Harte.

FARMER. I have since observed, that Mandeville has the same word.

STEEVENS. Why should Mr. Steevens object to the authority of Chaucer and Skelton for the use of this word, and yet adduce them to authenticate the sense of others ? Surely the following passage from the latter of these Poets, together with the other instances subjoined, must put the meaning beyond all question :

“ Christe by crueltie
“ Was nayled upon a tree
“ He pay'd a bitter pencion

« For

« For mans redemption
“ He drank eisel and gall

“ To redeme us withall.' Again, in the Customs of London : 1 Item in the chyrche of saynt crucis there is a chambre or a chappell within that pope sylvestre named Jherusalem there is the bonde that Chryste was led with to his crucyfyeng and there ben ii, sausers the one is full of Ihesus bloode and the other is ful of our ladyes melke and the sponge wherein was mengyth eysell and gall."

HENLEY. 297. Queen.] This speech in the 1st and 2d folio is given to the king.

MALONE. 300. When that her golden couplets-] We should read, E’er that-for it is the patience of birds, during the time of incubation, that is here spoken of. The pigeon generally sits upon two eggs; and her young, when first disclosed, are covered with a yellow down.

WARBURTON, Perhaps it should be,

Ere yet Yet and that are easily confounded. JOHNSON.

To disclose was anciently used for to hatch. So, in the Booke of Huntyng, Hawkyng, Fyshyng, &c. bl. let.

“ First they ben eges; and after they ben disclosed, haukes; and com only goshaukes ben disclosed as some as the choughes." To exclude is the technical term at present. I believe neither commeiltator has rightly explained this image. During three days after the pigeon has hatched her couplets (for she



no date :

lays no more than two eggs) she never quits her nest, except for a few moments in quest of a little food for herself; as all her young require in that early state, is to be kept warm, an office which she never entrusts to the male.

STEVENS. Probably, in the manuscript, y might have been indiscriminately used for both yet and that. HENLEY.

312. -shortly] The second and third quartos read, thereby. Perhaps rightly.

SreeVENS. 314. Ham. So much for this sir, &c.] The Hystorie of Hamblet, bl. let. furnished our author with the scheme of sending the prince to England, and with most of the circumstances described in this scene.

MALONE. 319. -mutines in the bilboes, -] Mutines, the French word for seditious or disobedient fellows in the army or fleet. Bilboes the ship's prison.

JOHNSON. The bilboes is a bar of iron with fetters annexed to it, by which mutinous or disorderly sailors were anciently linked together. The word is derived from Bilboa, a place in Spain, where instruments of steel were fabricated in the utmost perfection. To under. stand Shakspere's allusion completely, it should be known, that as these fetters connect the legs of the offenders

very close together, their attempts to rest must be as fruitless as those of Hamlet, in whose mind there was a kind of fighting that would not let him sleep. Every motion of one must disturb his partner in confinement. The bilboes are still shewn in the



Tower of London, among the other 'spoils of the Spanish Armada. The following is the figure of them.

Steevens. 319. -Rashly,

And prais'd be rashness for it--Let us know,
Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well,

When, &c.] The sense in this reading is, Our Tashness lets us know that our indiscretion serves us well, when, &c. But this could never be Shakspere's sense. We should read and point thus:

( And prais'd be rashness for it) lets us know;
Or indiscretion sometimes serves us well,

When, &c.] i. e. Rashness acquaints us with what we cannot penetrate to by plots. WARBURTON. Both my copies read,

-Rashly, And prais'd be rashness for it, let us know. Hamlet, delivering an account of his escape, begins with saying, That he rashly-and then is carried into a reflection upon the weakness of human wisdom. I rashly praised be rashness for it Let us not think these events casual, but let us know, that is, take notice, and remember, that we sometimes succeed by indiscretion, when we fail by deep plots, and infer the perpetual superintendance and agency of the Divi



nity. The observation is just, and will be allowed by every human being who shall reflect on the course of his own life.

JOHNSON. This passage, I think, should be thus distributed :

(And prais'd be rashness, for it lets us know,
Ourindiscretion sometimes serves us well,
When our deep plots do fail; and that should

teach us,
There's a divinity that shapes our ends,

Rough hew them how we will ;-
Hor. That is most certain :-)

Ham. Up from my cabin, &c.] So that rashly may be joined in construction with in the dark grop'd I to find out them.

TYRWHITT. 322. When our deep plots do fail : -] The folio reads-When our dear plots do paule.

MALONE. 323. There's a divinity that shapes our ends,

Rough-hew them how we will.] Dr. Farmer informs me, that these words are merely technical. A wool-man, butcher, and dealer in skewers, lately observed to him that his nephew (an idle lad) could only assist him in making them; " - he could rough-hew them, but I was obliged to shape their ends." Whoever recollects the profession of Shakspere's father, will admit that his son might be no stranger to such a term. I have seen packages of wool pinn'd up with skewers.

STEEVENS. 336. With, ho! such bugs and goblins in my life; ] With such causes of terror, rising from my character and designs.


A bug

« PreviousContinue »